Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Darkness Within Rome

I was a late bloomer to Anne Rice. Truth be told, I went the route of Clive Barker when it came to seductive horror and Brian Lumley for unique vampires. However, when I finally read Interview with the Vampire, my whole world changed. As much as I loved New Orleans, Anne Rice showed me a different side to the city, one that I truly believe in. if the city is host to so many Strange and Unusual things, why not vampires as well? I read her books, okay devoured, and wanted only more. When I began writing my own version of Gothic, I left her books behind. However, due to a conversation between me and several of my NOLA Sisters, I decided to return to her world - I knew the just the one to return with. Pandora: New Tales of the Vampires, tells the story of Pandora, nee Lydia, as she converses with David (formerly of the Talamasca and now a vampire) and finally decides to write her story.

I've always loved Ancient Roman history - from the emperors to the vomitoriums, from the Bread and Circuses to the inventions that we use even now, I've believed in the phrase: To Know Rome, You Must Honour and Love Her. The Rome that we get to see through Pandora's eyes is filled with opulence, decadence, blood, gorging, gods and goddesses, and above it all - literature and poetry. Lydia, even as a mortal child, is a free thinking outspoken young woman who is loved and adored by her father. Yet, one day, she meets a man named Marius who will change her live forever (literally). When she is older, she begins to be plagued by dreams of being a Blood Drinker under the gaze of the Ancient Ones - those who whisper to her and tell her of her Fate. From there, we see her rise, utter fall, and then her Rise into the Dark Gift.

I LOVED this book when I first read it, yet I couldn't remember too much of it. When I recently returned to it, I found myself loving it even more. Anne Rice is a natural when it comes to sensual horror - this books made me wish to be in Ancient Rome and experience it to the fullest.

I've ordered a copy of Merrick and I'm looking forward to returning to that book as well very soon.

Much love to my NOLA Sisters and see you soon!


Saturday, August 4, 2018

The Gothic Tragedy of Erik

For the longest time, the only thing I knew about the Phantom of the Opera was the musical and the Lon Chaney film. Some time ago, I read (and LOVED) Prince of Conjurers by my friend Laurie L. Bolanos - it gave me a wonderful introduction into Erik's world. I reviewed the book - check out the Archives of this blog to locate it. Knowing me, though, I knew that I needed to read the original work and so I did. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux was a FANTASTIC read, one that I devoured within days. Even if the story were never turned into a musical romance, I still feel sorry for Erik. Let me explain why.

Erik is the Opera Ghost, the mysterious being who "resides" within and under the Paris Opera. He receives money on a monthly basis, uses Box 5 for performances, and is enamoured with Christine Daae, the opera singer with the angelic voice. If anyone tries to capture the Ghost, Erik pays them back dearly through death or eternal shame. No one seems to be able to stop him, except for Raoul, Christine's lover, and the Persian (LOVE THIS CHARACTER!) The two men stop at nothing to defeat Erik and rescue Christine from his clutches and they do . . .  However, after I finished the book today, I wondered: if Erik was normal looking or even handsome, would he still have been considered to be a monster? Would he have been instead a "misunderstood man"? true, Erik did revel in his deformity to a point, yet he still had a heart (black and twisted but it was still there). He found in Christine a special soul, one who could possibly understand and maybe love him. That was all he wanted - love. His parents hated him for how he looked and his mother never gave him a kiss. Yet, before he died, he shared kisses with Christine and their tears "mingled".  tragically beautiful - I'm such a sap for those things (grin).

As I read the story, I tried to imagine Erik's face followed by looking up pics online. I wanted to see Erik for who and what he was - a truly tragic character that used his intelligence and wits to stay ahead. Did he love Christine? Honestly, I'm not sure. I think it was more of an obsession than love but that's my opinion. In Prince of Conjurers, Laurie gives him the chance to love someone and she does it well. She shows that Erik, despite his appearance, can love and be loved despite what he has to go through to obtain it.

Well done, Monsieur Leroux and Madame Bolanos - Phantom of the Opera should be a must read for anyone who loves to read or wants to read a good story. And if you've read Phantom and want more of Erik, pick up a copy of Prince of Conjurers through her website (linked above) or through Tubby and Coos MidCity Bookshop in NOLA.


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

A Haitian Voice

When a Haitian wishes to tell a story, they say "Krik?" and the listeners reply with, "Krak!" Such is the title of Edwidge Danticat's book Krik? Krak! The short story collection is a wonderful representation of the people of Haiti as it shows outsiders the depth of their culture. These stories also delve into the relationships between women in and out of families. The men appear to be background characters as the women dictate the way to live and embrace their culture. The women, no matter where they are located, are representatives of the love and pain of Haiti.

The first story, Children of the Sea, was both depressing and horrifying to read, yet it conveyed the spirit of those who wish for a better life despite the price. The story is set up like letters as a young man and woman convey their continued love for each other: while he is on a boat seeking asylum, she is in Haiti seeking asylum as well. The desire for something better will overcome even the most futile of gestures. The story Between the Pool and the Gardenias disturbed me greatly when I figured out what was going on. I won't give the plot away but I will say that you need to savour it. The story is beautiful in that desperation never looked lovelier. All of the stories were incredible yet those two stuck out in my mind the most.

I can't believe it's taken me this long to read Danticat's works yet better late than never. She writes with such passion and spirit for her culture that you can't help but get caught up in it as well. She is the voice of Haitian women, proud and strong, free and terrorized. She tells the stories and we must listen. We must answer with Krak!


Sunday, July 29, 2018

sylvia - poem

In this space -
here and now, beginning and ending -
she exists between it all.
A colour not yet defined of her eyes
appears when she touches me.
I am a humble man
set before a most banal path
that she placed before me
over a simple game of chess.
She came to me when she had no one.
The world, she claimed, wanted to
put her out, douse the flames to cool her skin.
Are you too much for Life, I asked,
not expecting an answer.
You see me as I once was, she replied.
When I danced with gods
and slept with demons.
I want to hold her pale sturdy body,
caress her hair that moves on command,
and feel her lips next to mine
as she tries to steal my soul.
Can she, this woman from misused words -
can she survive out there?
Does she desire such power?
When she sees me, dear friend
and fellow scholar of the dark,
does she understand
that my thoughts will consume her?
I hate my flawed skin,
the hair that grows on my face
and covers my lies.
She touches me like a pet -
cautious and careful with a hint
of cruelty.
I want to fall to my knees
and beg for her to not go away.
Don't leave me here among those who are blind.
You say you understand me, she says,
yet you haven't listened.
She wants to love and forget me
because she knows I share her blood.
I am real, I whisper to her.
Touch the wounds, taste my blood of yours,
let me cover you and give you refuge
in between it all.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Grim Dark Shakespeare

It's been some time since I last visited the realm of Warhammer 40K. Through the grim dark, I created a special "fondness" for the Eldar and the Dark Eldar. These two "races" take decadence and raise it several thousand levels - a blessing and very much a curse. However, in delving into The Masque of Vyle, a novella by Andy Chambers, I was "introduced" to the Harlequins. Mysterious and dangerous, they are the "thespians" that can bring you to your knees with their dramas . . or leave you completely insane and covered in gore seeping from your body. This story gives a nod to Shakespeare while giving what 40K fans come to expect from the Harlequins.

An abandoned and desecrated Craftword is discovered by a group of Harlequins within the webway and they take it upon themselves to discover who did it and why. To desecrate a Craftworld is akin to sacrilege to the Eldar. They soon find themselves within an area of the Dark Eldar known as the Sable Marches and decide to do what they do best - put on a performance. However, this performance also serves as a way to discover the truth behind the desecrated Craftworld with a price that must be paid in blood.

If you are not familiar with 40k and the Eldar, let me give you a brief rundown: the Eldar are just one race within the grim dark universe of 40K. They are beyond beautiful with an edge for killing, torture, and anything that pleases them beyond normal (and rational) understanding. Enhance that over a 1000 times and you have the Dark Eldar. However, it was due to their excesses that they involuntarily created a Chaos god - Slaanesh or She Who Thirsts. Because of their choices and the birth of Slaanesh, the Eldar and Dark Eldar keep themselves hidden from her; if she discovers them, she "welcomes them home", to put it mildly. If you want to learn more about the Eldar and Dark Eldar, I highly recommend this novella with its well written story, Shakespearian plot, and much action, decadence, and violence. I also recommend looking at the CODEX for the Eldar, Dark Eldar, and the Craftworlds as well - I own all three, of course. The Black Library is the website of all books within the 40K realm- go check it out to start your path down that dark road.


Thursday, July 19, 2018

Confessions of a Southern Taoist - Gratitude of Grief

I’m currently working through a 31 day meditation that focuses on gratitude. Gratitude for your body, your mind, emotions, everything. Today’s topic was on grief. The meditation instructor read a quote about how grief is love that is left over. We still love those whom we’ve lost, or a dream we wanted so badly to happen and it didn’t. I’ve lost family members, friends who took different directions, and dreams I once had that never happened. Yet, in looking at what we’ve lost, we are also reminded as to what we still have. I’m grateful for the friends who are still in my life, the dreams that continue to unfold, and the ability to embrace it all. 


Monday, July 16, 2018

Confessions of a Southern Taoist - Monday

Monday is usually Do Nothing Day for me - I come in from work, put on my jamy jams, eat dinner, then play video games/read/watch movies as a way to relax and enjoy some down time. However, this Monday was more of my usual working time - after my glorious trip to NOLA, I felt myself recharged and energized. While at my corporate job, I collaborated with several women regarding a book idea and spoke with a contact for another venue for my tea blends contacted me. I felt my anxiety wanting to creep up, so I delved into my work instead and it dissipated. When I got home, I immediately began cleaning my place while creating the price list for the contact. I'm currently working on a serial for my Facebook page The House of Byzantium - a shrine to Decadence - and I felt inspired to put the latest episode up. Now that it's 9:30, I feel wired and ready to run around my neighbourhood several times. Instead, I will continue listening to music (currently listening to Lacuna Coil). I guess what I'm trying to say is that - Monday. It's a day we don't like because its our low from the weekend. We want to run from it while screaming, "I HATE Mondays!" Yet, what if we treated it like a day? Just a day. We know that soon, Friday will be knocking on our door but for now, Monday is here. What are your Mondays like? Do you repeatedly hit the SNOOZE button on your clock? Do you drink an extra cup of coffee or "fake it till you make it"? Or, do you do like me and treat it like a day? I wake up, I breathe, I am here. No matter what happens, I am here. On a Monday.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Confessions of a Southern Taoist - Strength

I've just returned from a lovely trip to New Orleans. Although it was a quick overnighter, it was filled with moments of laughter, art, Nature, and good food. It was also a good time to spend with friends - there are several women that I call Sisters. Although we have different stories, we are of similar mindsets. To outsiders, we may seem as Odd or Strange/Unusual but to us, at least to me, I see nothing but strength. Strength can come in many forms - mental, physical, emotional, spiritual. These women that I am lucky to know exhibit all of these strengths. We don't have perfect lives - shit will blow up in our faces on a regular basis. We will do/say the wrong thing at the really wrong time. We may want to scream, shake our fists at the sky and wonder why WE are going through this. I've done that many times. I've had my moments of crying in a pillow when it feels like the world just fell apart at my feet. However, once the crying is over and I suddenly get hungry, I get up, dust myself off, and keep moving forward. It sounds easier than it is and YES, it is. Sometimes, the desire to stay down and give up feels right. Give up trying and just exist. Resist everything and stay down. Yet, whenever I'm around my NOLA Sisters, I get a recharge of my life. In fact, I talked to myself halfway through my return trip - remembering who said what at dinner last night, remembering to return to Anne Rice's vampires (I loved Pandora - one of my favourites of her works), and remembering who and WHAT I am and my place within all of THIS. We get strength from a smile from a stranger, or a kind word, or even when a friend calls you up and wants to hang out with you. Sometimes, strength can come from when you finally decide that enough is ENOUGH and that today, you are taking back your life. When you flow, you ARE.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Confessions of a Southern Taoist - Pain

I love to move. Walk, run, bike, hike, anything - my body has to move. When I lived in Washington DC, I moved quickly: running to class, trying to catch the Metro, speeding up to be with friends. However, I am learning the delicate art of Resting. Because of me going and going only to crash, my body has "informed" me that, at age 44, I need to slow down and rest. In feeling the pain shoot through my back, I know that yes, I need to rest. However, I'm also learning how to rest on other levels. I now take time to look around me whenever I stop in my car at an intersection light. What am I normally missing by trying to get to work? Hmmm, never noticed that tree before. Check out that funky looking house. That's a new restaurant to try out. Taking five minutes out of my day to meditate helps my mind and soul tremendously as well. Eating baby carrots in the morning is quite nice too. When I slow down, I can feel myself coming together after being scattered. Whenever I remind myself that I am part of this and THIS is part of me, I rest. Time to stop allowing thoughts to run rampant in my mind and rest. Time to read a book or watch British or French period drama while sitting on my couch (although right now the movie about French gangster Jacques Mesrine is playing in my living room and that's NOT a relaxing movie! LOL)

Rest. Slow down once in a while. And eat baby carrots.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Confessions of a Southern Taoist - Demons

I read yesterday how a famous actor that I admire had a meltdown in an airplane. The first thought that came into my head was, “But why? He’s so talented and good looking. Why again?” I then spoke with one of my best friends who advised that we all have demons. I couldn’t help but agree with her. I know so many talented and beautiful people and probably most of them have personal demons: I’m not pretty enough, I’m not talented enough, I feel like a freak. We are all here for a reason, as corny as that may sound. We are all here on this blue greenish ball and we are HERE. Do your thing and make it count. I know I am.